Old Dominion-Kentucky Preview
John Calipari's squad looks to improve to 4-0 on Sunday when it meets the Monarchs in the title game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament in Uncasville, Conn.
Kentucky's starting lineup is comprised of three freshmen and two sophomores while Old Dominion (3-1) has three senior starters, but Taylor is already convinced that the talent-laden Wildcats should be No. 1.
"Everybody said they're No. 2, that means we were the No. 1 seed in this thing or they are No. 2 in the country?" he joked.
The Wildcats turned in their best defensive effort of the young season in Saturday's 85-47 semifinal rout of Penn State, limiting the Nittany Lions to 26.9 percent shooting. Kentucky's first two opponents combined to shoot 32.8 percent.
"I think we did a good job of guarding and then some of the shots they had they missed," Calipari said. "But I'm going to tell you why you miss. Because all of a sudden you've got arms and legs and teeth flying at you, a shot that you think is open isn't so open."
Calipari was worried about the noon start Saturday for his young club, but his players put any such concerns to rest by opening leads of 16-5 and 38-12 before settling for a 47-15 bulge at the break.
"We all believe in one another, and we play like it," Jones said. "No one cares who shoots the ball. We're just having fun."
While Calipari was able to limit his team's minutes in this back-to-back set of games, Taylor's team needed overtime to win 68-66 over South Florida on Saturday. The Monarchs know it won't be easy one day later.
"Obviously they're very good and I think we're excited to get a game that has such meaning in this tournament," said Taylor about playing Kentucky. "It's a nice stage and platform for our university and our program to be on. We've been in postseason play the last seven in a row and been in the NCAAs numerous times so I think it's a place we yearn to be but it's a place we've been in the past."
Kent Bazemore came off the bench for 23 points to lead the Monarchs, who have won three straight since opening with a loss to Northern Iowa. Bazemore is the Colonial Athletic Association preseason player of the year, but is not starting since he is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured left foot.
"I'm at a point now where I'm just trying to build stamina, so to speak, from my injury," Bazemore said. "The bone has healed a lot but it's taken back-to-back games, the practices, four games in 10 days."
The only previous meeting between these teams came when the Wildcats won 88-69 in the first round of the 1992 NCAA tournament at Worcester, Mass.